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Changes in Rental Amounts

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Unless authorized by law, rent cannot change during the lease period. Of course, no tenant would oppose a rent decrease unless services were decreased as well. In rent-controlled apartments, laws may allow a rent increase if the landlord spends money on capital improvements, such as building a deck on the building's roof.

Rent Increases

The amount of rent that you pay under the lease agreement cannot be increased until the agreement terminates. The lease agreement is a contract, and the landlord cannot change the most important provision-the amount of rent-on his own. If you have notified your landlord that you intend to renew your lease, the rent remains the same unless the landlord notifies you in advance. In a month-to-month tenancy, the landlord may increase the rent effective with the next month's rental payment as long as the tenant is given 30 days' notice.

Rent Stabilization

Rent stabilization laws have taken the place of the old rent control system. In some areas of the country, notably New York City, tenants are "rent regulated" through rent stabilization laws. These laws prohibit or limit the landlord's ability to raise the rent on tenants occupying rental property under a current lease. Those tenants are known as "sitting tenants" and have the right to renew their lease and continue to rent the premises at the rate agreed to in the original lease, even if it was made years ago. Sitting tenants must be offered a renewal lease (at the stabilized rent rate) before the end of the current lease.

Succession rights allow a rent-regulated apartment to be passed on to an immediate family member who has been living there when the original tenant on the lease dies. The rights are only good for one generation. For example, the apartment may be passed from father to son, but not from the son to his children.

Landlords are allowed to impose substantial rent increases only when the rental unit is voluntarily vacated and a new tenant moves in. Raising rents to the current market rate after a vacancy is known as "vacancy decontrol." For example, if the previous tenant rented an apartment in Los Angeles (a rent control city) 5 years ago at $1,000 per month, and the current rental rate for a similar unit is $1,500, the landlord can raise the rent to $1,500 when a new tenant rents the apartment.

TIP: In addition to New York City, cities in California, Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Jersey and Hawaii have also enacted rent stabilization laws. Many housing departments from these cities have Web sites with more information.

  • Residential renters in New York City can find guidance here.
  • The Los Angeles Housing Department has rent control information on its Web site.